City firms open doors for work-life balance research

Thirteen law firms are opening their doors to independent researchers from work-life balance charity Working Families in a bid to determine how the legal world can improve retention rates.

Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Denton Wilde Sapte, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Lovells, Nabarro, SJ Berwin, Wragge & Co and K&L Gates will be involved in the exercise entitled Legal Lives: Retaining Talent through a Balanced Culture.

Under the scheme researchers will carry out one-on-one interviews with practice heads and board level leadership, as well as focus groups with teams of 12 to 15 associates. The research will be published in October.

The focus groups are intended to represent a cross-section of associates and will most likely be aimed at those in four years-plus PQE band, according to Judith Hardy, HR director at Addleshaws.

“Typically it is the most senior people who are more critical to the delivery of work, so its an area where pressure is most felt,” she told The Lawyer.

Working Families has previously carried out similar research in other City entities and Addleshaws, which is the lead sponsor of the research, approached the charity suggesting it might do a survey of the legal market. Hardy said this move was ultimately driven by a focus on retention and talent.

As well as getting inside the law firms themselves, the venture will involve interviews with key clients. Hardy explained that this was due to the perception that client demands effectively restrict flexible working practices.